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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
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September 5, 2017 - A Message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

September 05, 2017

“Let us make our future now, and let us make our dreams tomorrow's reality.” – Malala Yousafzai

Welcome back, everyone! It is so hard to believe summer is over and tomorrow our children and students return to our classrooms. As I have shared over and over, this is my best time of the year…it is what all of us in education, including our students, consider a rebirth, of sorts. It is a time when all of us get to start fresh with great anticipation for a great year. We look forward to the changes that occur for our children and to implement some of the practices we have been preparing with which to support our students. Our bus drivers will be anxiously running their routes monitoring their pickup times and our caretakers will be eagerly watching the reaction of our children as they walk into their newly cleaned school. I was reading a quotation written by an education professional and parent who asked her own children what they hoped for on their first day of school. She shared that her children, not unlike any who will return to our schools tomorrow, simply wanted these things, “…a smile, be nice, get to know me, help me make new friends – a happy first day”. I know very well that our staffs will go out of their way to give our children this…and so much more! I look forward to being in schools this first week and sharing with our school staff in the welcome to our students.

I hope each of you had a fantastic summer. In speaking with those of you who I had the opportunity to dialogue with, you enjoyed the beautiful summer weather we experienced and took the time to “recharge your batteries”. In addition to enjoying the weather, spending time with loved ones and reading some great books, I also took some time to enjoy professional development sessions and engage in meetings to prepare for the coming school year. I spent a few days during the summer finalizing our plans for the construction of our central administration facility. We recently received final approval from the Ministry of Education to move ahead with the proponent sign off and ultimately, begin the construction phase of the project. As details are finalized over the next few weeks and months, more information will be shared regarding this work, including an announcement of the successful proponent.

I also spent some time in late July at an outstanding professional development event in Saskatoon with nearly 20 of our staff from across Horizon. Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher conducted an exceptional, 3-day professional learning opportunity and I know more will be shared relative to our scholarship in the upcoming days and weeks.

The League of Educational Administrators, Directors and Superintendents (LEADS), the professional organization I belong to, held our annual Summer Short Course in early August. Members of my Central Office Administrator Team (COAT) who are members of LEADS, met with colleagues from across Saskatchewan to learn, share and discuss the work going on in the education sector as well as to work through professional modules necessary for continued membership. As you may know, Superintendent of Student Services, Darrell Paproski, serves as LEADS President, and Coordinator of Learning Services, Jan Paproski, does a wonderful job of coordinating the Family Program for this event.

Although our central office staff has been busy throughout the summer preparing for the new school year, this past two weeks marked a return for the majority of Horizon’s school-based staff. To start the week of August 21st to 25th, we welcomed first and second year teachers – both new to Horizon and/or new to the profession – to a two-day New Teacher Induction Workshop in Humboldt. The workshop was organized and facilitated by Deputy Director, Randy MacLEAN, Superintendent of Human Resource Services, Todd Gjevre, and their HR team. Along with other members of Horizon’s Senior Leadership, I had the opportunity to stop in at this workshop and speak with our newest teachers about the year ahead. While the beginning teachers met with their school mentors on Tuesday, the afternoon was also dedicated to welcoming first year administrators to central office for an orientation session where they had the opportunity to hear from many of the support personnel in my office. Again, I want to thank Randy and his staff for organizing this important opportunity for administrators.

On Monday, August 21st, I had the honour of participating in a ceremony at Humboldt City Hall, where the Pride Flag was raised for the second straight year, in conjunction with Humboldt Pride Week. I was honoured to be part of this celebration of inclusion and diversity, and to show support for the LGBTQ community. As one of Horizon’s Foundational Goals, ensuring Safe & Caring Schools is critically important to everything we do as a system. In the worlds of Nelson Mandela, “education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”. As educators, I am so proud that we are working to ensure that students of all backgrounds, identities and cultures know they are welcome and celebrated in our schools and communities.

On Wednesday, August 23rd, Horizon’s Board of Education held their first regular meeting of the 2017-18 school year. Our meeting was extremely productive and the Board made numerous decisions in support of their work and mine. I remained honoured to be their employee and to continue working in support of our students and staff.

On Thursday, August 24th, we held our first Director’s Leadership Team (DLT) meeting, welcoming our school Principals and Vice Principals for discussions and information on the year ahead. It was also an opportunity for our new DLT members to meet with members of our Central Office Administration Team (COAT), who joined us for this first DLT meeting. Likely, the biggest item of discussion was the new process for substitutes and, after some clarification where needed, I am looking forward to continued implementation of this process.

Friday, August 25th was our first Administration Day of the 17-18 school year and all school-based staff were back in our buildings preparing for September 5th.

Of course, teachers and support staff were back in school on Monday and Tuesday of this past week. On Wednesday, Horizon teachers were part of the Horizon Teachers’ Association (HTA) Convention. I want to thank Terry Leibel and Jeff Fisher and all other members of the convention committee for their tremendous preparation in what I have heard described as one of the best conventions ever. I thank them, staff members from Wynyard and Foam Lake schools who were involved in the preparation of the hall as well as HTA President, Gerard Frison, who shared a tremendous message focused on unity and values in education.

On Thursday, the first collaboration day for professional staff took place at the curling rink in Humboldt. From the excitement in the air and the reports I have had to date, it may have been one of the best collaboration days our teachers have attended. I know teachers have been very engaged in the Board’s goals and have been putting in a great deal of time focused on working together on assessment and literacy practices. It is exciting to see the results our students are getting on our assessments relative to our goals. While we are only able to come together a few times a year, it is my goal that all teachers will continue their collaboration with their colleagues electronically throughout the year. I am sure at times, we think that what we are doing is not “good enough” to share with our colleagues…that there is almost a “fear” that someone will analyze our work in a negative manner. This belief can cut short the growth necessary to realize the greatest fruits of teaching and learning. Leadership expert, Dr. Kenneth Blanchard that I want to share with you to reflect on during these times, reminds me of a quote. Blanchard stated, “Some of the greatest advances happen when people are bold enough to speak their truth and listen to others speak theirs.”

On Friday, nearly 1000 staff members were part of Horizon’s fourth annual Celebration Day. The celebration of students and staff past and present and the inclusion of awards won by our staff and system were just a few of the aspects of our tremendous day. I want to thank my Board of Education who believes whole-heartedly in celebrating the staff of our system for the work they do in support of our children and for continuing to foster a belief that every employee has a part to play in their Vision, “Creating a Better World, One Student at a Time”.  

I would like to share some information and a link that you can follow to support a member of our central office staff. The very talented Melanie Gray (Executive Assistant to Horizon’s CFO, Marilyn Flaman) currently has a beautiful photograph displayed in the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as part of an exhibit celebrating Canada 150. The exhibit itself consists of 70 photos from across Canada, all bringing awareness to different Human Rights Issues and all from very diverse perspectives. Melanie chose to enter her photo because she wanted to bring awareness to the resiliency of Indigenous people. In Melanie’s own words: “Despite what our people have gone through, we are still here. Our resiliency gives me hope for healing and hope that our traditional ways will be passed on to the next generation”. There is currently a People’s Choice contest for best photos from the exhibit, and you can follow this link to vote for Melanie’s photo: https://photo.humanrights.ca/photocontest/detail/reconciliation/the-next-generation/?filters=finalist%3A1. The People’s Choice award will include a cash prize, a portion of which Melanie would like to dedicate to Saskatoon’s Friendship Inn. She hopes to support the Inn because it provides both food and a sense of belonging to vulnerable people in the community. You can vote once every 24 hours until December 31, 2017, so please show Melanie and this great cause your support by casting your votes as many times as you can.

To close out the first edition of “This Week in Horizon”, I want to thank each of you for making a difference in the lives of every child in Horizon. Through your collaborative energy and support of the Vision, Mission and Values of Horizon, you either will directly or indirectly touch the lives of every Horizon student. As such, I want to leave you with these two quotes as you look into the eyes of our children with an intent to open their minds and engage their hearts…

“Stay committed to your decisions; but stay flexible in your approach.” --Tony Robbins

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of becoming.” --Goethe

Have a great first day with our students, everyone!

- Kevin

Kevin C. Garinger  B.Ed., M.A.Ed.
Director of Education/CEO
Horizon School Division #205
Englefeld Protestant SSD #132
Kevin.garinger@horizonsd.ca